China: Eating and cooking

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About
In the mythology of ancient China, Han, the Chinese man, is distinguished from savages and barbarians by two features of his eating habits: he eats cereals and uses fire to process his food.
In China, dietary practice involves two extremes; ‘eating to live’ and ‘eating for pleasure’. The former in effect meant the ingestion of cereals, the foodstuff capable of sustaining life, whereas the latter was achieved by cooking animal or vegetable matter, perceived as being of secondary importance, and destined to be an accompaniment to the cereals.